EPA Orders Idaho Property Owner to Repair River Damage

John Shaw, a property owner in Hagerman, Idaho, has received a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean Water Act Compliance Order for unauthorized dredging and filling of the Snake River near his home, according to a Dec. 30 press release. 

EPA documents associated with the case shows that, during the summer of 2008, Shaw armored 3,000 feet of Snake River bank in the Lower Salmon Falls Reservoir with basalt trap rock or “riprap.” During the course of his project – performed without the required U.S Army Corps of Engineers permit – Shaw cut and damaged the riverbank, removed vegetation, placed rock below the Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM) approximately 15 feet into the river, then placed dirt between the bank and the rock.

According to James Werntz, director of EPA’s Idaho office, the Clean Water Act requires property owners to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the impacts of development on wetlands and waters.

“Rather than illegally damaging the Snake River and its wetlands, Mr. Shaw should have gone through the proper permitting process with the Army Corps of Engineers,” said EPA’s Werntz. “Permits help to minimize damage to wetlands and important Idaho waters like the Snake River. Habitat losses are felt onsite and downstream, often far beyond the individual landowner. Projects like this can affect both the surrounding community and the entire ecosystem.”

EPA asserts that Shaw knew he needed a permit for the 2008 work after speaking to the Corps about another riprap project. Following this discussion with the permitting authorities, Shaw placed unpermitted riprap below the high water mark near his boat dock.

Under EPA’s Order, Shaw has until Jan. 23, to submit a restoration plan for EPA review. If approved, the restoration plan must be completed by Feb. 28, or he may face additional sanctions or penalties for non-compliance.

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